Food poisoning: Pork

Food poisoning after eating underdone pork often comes from meat that was previously contaminated by parasitic organisms or bacteria during slaughter, processing or preparation. The food poisoning caused by pork can cause severe illness but the symptoms tend to vary depending on the bacteria, amount of contaminant ingested and the age and overall health of the individual. Proper handling of food and cooking can significantly reduce the risk for food poisoning from pork.

Possible bacterial causes

Contamination of bacteria from pork can occur during the production, harvesting, processing, storage, shipping or preparation. The bacteria typically associated with food poisoning from pork include Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes and Yersinia enterocolitica.

It is important to note that Campylobacter is one of the common causes of diarrhea. The symptoms of Campylobacter food poisoning include vomiting and nausea. As for Yersinia enterolitica, it is usually found in the intestines of pigs and can cause yersiniosis in humans. This condition is characterized by abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Food poisoning

The symptoms of Campylobacter food poisoning include vomiting and nausea.

Possible parasitic causes

Consumption of raw or undercooked pork that has been infected with the parasite Trichinella spiralis can cause trichinellosis. The symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and weakness. The GI symptoms occur within 24-48 hours following the consumption of contaminated or undercooked pork. Joint and muscle pain, headache, cough, fever and chills can manifest weeks after the initial symptoms. Prompt and early treatment of trichinellosis is vital in order to completely eliminate the parasite from the body.

How to prevent food poisoning from pork

There are various measures to be considered in order to avoid food poisoning by pork. These include proper hand washing and cleansing of utensils used in handling raw pork to eliminate any contaminants and minimize the chance of contact transfer.

The ideal way to eliminate parasitic contaminants within the pork is to cook up to an internal temperature of 145-160 degrees F and allow a rest period for 3 minutes before eating. During the resting period, the temperature of pork stays constant or rises which kills the germs.

Any leftover pork should be refrigerated or frozen as soon as possible. Pork that has a slimy appearance or foul odor should be discarded. Take note that freezing pork can also eliminate contaminating germs. The recommended range for freezing various types of pork products usually range from 2-6 months.

Management of food poisoning

The management for food poisoning due to the consumption of tainted pork varies based on the source. The mild cases of poisoning triggered by Yersinia enterolitica or Campylobacter normally subside without requiring medications. As for serious cases, it would require antibiotics and intravenous fluids to manage dehydration.

As for trichinellosis, the condition is managed with anti-parasitic drugs. Cases that were not treated early would require an extended course of anti-parasitic drugs.


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